EPA: RIN generation tops 1.64 billion in March

The U.S. EPA has released data showing that more than 1.64 billion renewable identification numbers (RIN) were generated under the Renewable Fuel Standard in March, up from 1.58 billion during the same month of last year.

Nearly 35.8 million D3 cellulosic biofuel RINs were generated in March, including 26.93 million generated for compressed renewable natural gas (RNG) by domestic producers, 6.04 million generated for liquefied RNG by domestic producers, and 2.82 million generated for compressed RNG by importers.

Total D3 RIN generation for the first three months of the year reached 82.86 million. That volume includes 63.87 million generated for compressed RNG by domestic producers, 13.02 million generated for liquefied RNG by domestic producers, 5.74 million generated for compressed RNG by importers, and 232,490 generated for

cellulosic ethanol by domestic producers.

Nearly 406.09 million D4 biomass-based diesel RINs were generated in March, including 223.99 million generated for biodiesel by domestic producers, 93.77 million generated for nonester renewable diesel by domestic producers, 65.15 million generated for nonester renewable diesel by foreign entities, 22.72 million generated for biodiesel by importers, and 462,249 generated for renewable jet fuel by domestic producers.

Total D4 RIN generation for the first quarter of the year reached 1.01 billion. That volume includes 549.18 million generated for biodiesel by domestic producers, 243.99 million generated for nonester renewable diesel by domestic producers, 165.99 million generated for nonester renewable diesel by foreign entities, 47.02 million generated for biodiesel by importers, 4.86 million generated for renewable diesel by importers, and 1.4 million generated for renewable jet fuel by domestic producers.

More than 11.82 million D5 advanced biofuel RINs were generated in March, including 6.91 million generated for nonester renewable diesel by domestic producers, 2.45 million generated for ethanol by domestic producers, 2.01 million generated for naphtha by domestic producers, 291,471 generated for renewable heating oil by domestic producers, 149,615 generated for LPG by domestic producers, and 8,056 generated for compressed RNG by domestic producers.

Total D5 RIN generation for the first three months of 2021 was at 43.49 million. That volume includes 29.33 million generated for nonester renewable diesel by domestic producers, 6.49 million generated for naphtha by domestic producers, 6.34 million generated for ethanol by domestic producers, 874,161 generated for renewable heating oil by domestic producers, 442,391 generated for LPG by domestic producers, and 14,916 generated for compressed CNG by domestic producers.

Nearly 1.89 billion D6 renewable fuel RINs were generated in March, including 1.17 billion generated for ethanol by domestic producers and 14.02 million generated for nonester renewable diesel by foreign entities.

Total D6 RIN generation for the first quarter of the year reached 3.17 billion, including 3.13 billion generated for ethanol by domestic producers, 32.75 million generated for nonester renewable diesel by foreign entities, and 1.93 million generated for ethanol by importers.

No D7 cellulosic diesel RINs have been generated so far this year.

According to the EPA, nearly 4.31 billion RINs were generated during the first three months of this year, down from 4.69 billion generated during the same period of 2020.


Biden sets goal to cut US GHG emissions in half by 2030

President Biden marked Earth Day on April 22 by announcing a new target for the U.S. to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction in economy-wide net greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 2030 when compared to a 2005 baseline. Biden made the announcement during the Leaders Summit on Climate, where Biden also fulfilled his promise to rejoin the Paris Agreement.

In his announcement, Biden stressed the link between climate and jobs. “Within our climate response lies an extraordinary engine of job creation and economic opportunity ready to be fired up,” he said. “That’s why I’ve proposed a huge investment in American infrastructure and American innovation to tap the economic opportunity that climate change presents our workers and our communities, especially those too often that have — left out and left behind…I see an opportunity to create millions of good-paying, middle-class, union jobs.”

fact sheet released by the White House explains that each policy considered for reducing emissions is also an opportunity to support jobs and improve equity. One such policy would aim to reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector, in part by spurring research, development, demonstration and deployment of efforts that drive forward very low carbon new-generation renewable fuels for applications like aviation.

Other policies addressed in the fact sheet include setting a goal to reach 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035; efforts to support efficiency upgrades and electrification in buildings that would cut emissions and energy costs for families; programs aimed at reducing emissions from forests and agriculture and enhancing carbon sinks; the use of carbon capture and hydrogen to address carbon pollution from industrial processes; initiatives to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases; and investments in innovation to improve and broaden the set of solutions as a critical complement to deploying the affordable, reliable, and resilient clean technologies and infrastructure available today.

The Renewable Fuels Association applauded the inclusion of renewable fuels in Biden’s climate plan, but said biofuels can play a much larger role in reducing emissions.  “We are pleased to see the inclusion of renewable fuels in President Biden’s plan for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and we agree that efforts to deploy larger volumes of ‘very low carbon’ renewable fuels should be a key component of our nation’s commitment to reduce emissions from the transportation sector under the Paris Agreement,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “However, renewable fuels can do far more than decarbonize aviation and other off-road markets. Just since 2008, nearly 1 billion metric tons of GHG emissions have been prevented from entering the atmosphere due to the increased use of renewable fuels to meet Renewable Fuel Standard obligations. In addition, recent research by scientists affiliated with Harvard, Tufts, and MIT shows that today’s average corn ethanol is reducing GHG emissions by almost 50 percent compared to gasoline. And with the adoption of carbon capture and sequestration, carbon-efficient feedstock production practices, and other new technologies, corn ethanol can be a ‘net-zero,’ carbon-neutral fuel by the end of the decade.

“As recognized by President Biden, achieving a 50 percent GHG reduction economy-wide by 2030 will take a portfolio approach that capitalizes on a broad and diverse array of low-carbon technologies, and that should include ethanol and other biofuels,” Cooper continued. “We look forward to receiving more details and information regarding the role renewable fuels are expected to play in the Biden administration’s nationally determined contribution that will be submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Likewise, the American Coalition for Ethanol stressed the role corn ethanol can play in reducing transportation emissions. “Renewable fuels like ethanol are a significant part of the solution to climate change and should be part of U.S. commitments to contribute to global emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “The mention of renewable fuels is welcome in President Biden’s plan to reduce GHGs. Today’s corn ethanol is next generation or advanced biofuel based on its ability to reduce GHGs by 50 percent compared to gasoline. In fact, ethanol is the only transportation energy source that can reach net-negative carbon intensity through carbon capture and sequestration and continued advancements within ethanol facilities and on-farm practices in how biofuel crops are grown. Other countries have initiated national ethanol policies as part of their countries’ global initiatives to decarbonize transportation fuels, and U.S. biofuel producers are ready to play a larger role in meeting these targets here and around the world.”

Growth Energy also emphasized the GHG reductions that can be achieved through the use of biofuels. “Growth Energy applauds President Biden for setting an ambitious new decarbonization target for the United States as part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure low-carbon biofuels, like ethanol, are an integral part of efforts to address climate change, reduce transportation sector emissions, improve air quality, and create jobs in rural America. 

“Plant-based biofuels, like ethanol, have long been a key part of the nation’s strategy to reduce carbon emissions,” Skor continued. “Since 2007, ethanol has been responsible for cumulative carbon dioxide savings of 600 million metric tons in the U.S., or the equivalent of removing 130 million cars from the road, roughly half of our nation’s fleet. In addition, the biofuels industry employs more than 360,000 hard-working Americans across the country and especially in rural America. As the U.S. takes steps to address the growing climate crisis, meet our international climate goals, improve public health outcomes, and grow the clean energy economy, biofuels are an essential part of the solution.” 


USDA announces $18.4 million in HBIIP awards

In honor of Earth Day, the USDA on April 22 announced $18.4 million in awards through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program to help expand the availability of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.

The awards span recipients in 20 states and are expected to help boost demand for renewable fuels by approximately 218 million gallons per year, according to the USDA.

Information released by the USDA shows 23 recipients have received grants through the latest round of HBIIP awards, including PCH Truck Stop Center Inc., Sprague Operating Resources LLC, RC Bells Inc., Par Hawaii Refining LLC, Pacific Biodiesel Technologies LLC, Kwik Trip Inc., Village of Arlington Heights, Graham Enterprises Inc., Family Express Corp., Triplett Inc., Owensboro Grain Co., K&W Stores of MN Inc., MFA Oil Co., Simran Inc. dba First Stop, Bosselman Pump & Pantry Inc., Townsend Oil Co. Inc.

Westmore Fuel Co Inc., Northville Industries Corp., Global Companies LLC, Mines Retail LLC, Trigoals LLC, Segoviakreek Properties, and Bulk Petroleum Corp. Those grants will support the development of biofuels distribution infrastructure at locations in California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Georgia, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, and Michigan.

The American Coalition for Ethanol has spoken out to applaud the latest round of HBIIP awards. “ACE is pleased that under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA is continuing to distribute HBIIP funding to help more fuel marketers make infrastructure upgrades that may be necessary to offer higher ethanol blends at fuel stations and blending facilities,” said Ron Lamberty, senior vice president at ACE. “This program helps expand the availability of cleaner, higher octane fuel blends at the pump to help contribute to our greenhouse gas reduction goals. ACE was happy to help promote USDA’s biofuel infrastructure program with paid advertising throughout last year and help several fuel retailers across the country submit applications and ultimately receive funding to expand their biofuel offerings.

“Meanwhile, we’ll continue to make sure station owners know what their equipment can do right now and help more of them start to sell higher ethanol blends via our E15 equipment compatibility tool, Flex Check, which EPA has adopted on its website as a resource for determining equipment compatibility and meeting federal requirements for storing biofuels,” Lamberty added. “If we are going to move significant new volumes of low carbon ethanol in E15, it’s going to be because massive numbers of retail units are converted at little or no cost, on top of what stations are able to add in new fueling infrastructure with HBIIP dollars.”

The National Biodiesel Board issued a statement thanking the USDA for its support of biofuels infrastructure. “Earth Day is the perfect time for Secretary Vilsack and USDA to announce infrastructure investments that will increase consumer access to clean, low-carbon biodiesel and Bioheat fuel,” said Kurt Kovarik, vice president of federal affairs at the NBB. “Biodiesel reduces carbon on average by 74 percent, and it cuts particulate matter and other criteria pollutants in transportation and home heating.

“On behalf of NBB’s members, I want to thank USDA and Secretary Vilsack for including biodiesel in this program,” Kovarik added. “We also thank Senators Amy Klobuchar and Joni Ernst and Representatives Cindy Axne, Rodney Davis, and Dusty Johnson for introducing bipartisan legislation that would enable USDA to continue making these investments to decarbonize America’s fuel infrastructure while rebuilding economic opportunity and creating jobs.”

Additional details on the HBIIP awards are available on the USDA website


ICM to upgrade distillation system at Lakeview Plymouth Energy

ICM Inc., has signed an agreement with Lakeview Plymouth Energy LLC to upgrade the ethanol producer’s distillation system and convert its high-pressure distillation system to ICM’s proprietary lower-temperature vacuum distillation.

“Reducing column fouling and CIP needs are two important goals we want to achieve,” said Eamonn Byrne, Lakeview Plymouth Energy CEO. “We are looking forward to working with ICM to increase our plant uptime while reducing operating costs.”

With this process optimization, ethanol plants with Delta-T technology and other high-pressure distillation plants have an opportunity to lower the cost of producing each gallon of ethanol, improve performance and increase overall efficiency.

“Designed by ICM, this process optimization delivers many benefits such as decreasing

energy usage, decreasing downtime associated with CIP of the beer column and evaporators, decreasing syrup production, improving Hunter and carbon intensity scores, and lowering operating costs,” said Jeff Scharping, ICM director of sales.

The project is expected to be completed in five months. This installation represents the seventh distillation system upgrade performed by ICM.


EPA rule to rescind CAA cost-benefit analysis regs sent to OMB

The U.S. EPA is taking action to rescind a Trump-era rule finalized in December 2020 that changed the way the agency considered the costs and benefits of all significant Clean Air Act rulemakings. A final rule rescinding the existing rule was delivered to the White House Office of Management and Budget in early April.

An advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) related to the existing rule was issued in June 2018. At that time, the EPA said it was soliciting public input on whether and how to change the way it considers costs and benefits when making regulatory decisions. The ANPR was related to Executive Order 13777, which was issued by President Trump in February 2017 and directed federal agencies to “alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people.” 

proposed rule was released in June 2020, opening a public comment period. A final

rule was issued in December 2020.

During the comment period, supporters of the biofuels industry submitted comments to the EPA expressing concern over how the rule would impact annual Renewable Fuel Standard rulemakings and other rulemaking processes and regulations related to renewable fuels.

One commenter said it was unclear how the rulemaking may translate to CAA statutory provisions, such as the RFS, that require ongoing or annual rulemakings to set annual renewable volume requirements (RVOs). The comment stressed that performing a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) for each RVO would undermine the certainty and investment expectation created when the RFS was first put into force. In its response to that comment, EPA said the agency “[declines] to formulate a specific test or mandate of how to consider the BCA or what weight it should be given in such a future rulemaking.  The precise details of what test would be appropriate could differ from one CAA provision to another, and the EPA has not proposed or requested comment on how such tests would be formulated under those specific provisions.”

At least one commenter also opposed retrospective review of historical BCA with regard to the RFS. The commenter said that “retrospective review could be misused to undermine the environmental progress from policies that increase the use of renewable fuel.” For example, the commenter pointed out that if a BCA analysis is done on the 2017 RVO, results of that analysis could potentially be used to retroactively alter RFS blending requirements for past years, which could create market volatility and depress demand for renewable fuels. Commenters stressed that the rulemaking did not provide a clear roadmap for how disaggregation should be applied in the context of the RFS rest or in post-2022 annual RVOs, both of which require the EPA to consider and weigh six statutory factors, some of which do not have straightforward cost or quantitative metrics. Commenters also said it was unclear how the rulemaking would affect accounting for greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of ethanol compared to gasoline.

In response to numerous comments related to retrospective review of historical BCA, the EPA said it’s final rule would not include a requirement that retrospective analysis be undertake for all significant regulations. “Instead, EPA is committing to taking additional steps to better institutionalize the practice of conducting high quality retrospective review and analysis, which could be accomplished through the development of guidance establishing best practices for conducting retrospective analysis and how to plan for different types of retrospective analysis within its rulemaking procedures,” the agency said.

More generally, environmental groups and public health advocates criticized the rule, in part because the rule would provide less weight to “co-benefits” connected to improvements in air quality.

The Biden administration is now taking action to rescind the rulemaking. The EPA on April 8 delivered a final rule to the OMB that would rescind the Trump-era rule. OMB review marks a final step before a rulemaking is released publicly.


Ethanol groups comment in support of proposed UST, E15 label rule

Representatives of the U.S. ethanol industry on April 19 filed comments with the U.S. EPA in support of the agency’s proposed rule that would modify or eliminate current fuel pump labeling requirements for E15 and make it easier for station owners to demonstrate E15 compatibility for underground storage tanks (USTs).

The EPA released the proposed rule on mid-January. A 90-day public comment period is set to close April 19.

The EPA currently requires specific fuel dispenser labels for gasoline blends of greater than E10 and up to E15. The label was designed to alert consumers to the appropriate and lawful use of the fuel, according to the agency.

The proposed rule issued earlier this year co-proposes to either modify the E15 label or remove the label requirement entirely. As part of that proposal, the agency sought

comments on whether state and local governments may be preempted from requiring different labels on fuel dispensers.

To facilitate the proper storage of E15 in USTs, the EPA proposed to modify the UST regulations to grant certain allowances for compatibility demonstration for storage of ethanol blends. The EPA also proposed compatibility requirements for future UST installations or component replacements that would ensure compatibility with higher blends of ethanol.

The American Coalition for Ethanol said the EPA’s proposed rule would make it easier for station owners and operators to store and sell E15 using existing equipment. ACE also stressed the proposed changes to E15 labeling requirements could reduce consumer confusion and resistance to trying the fuel blend.

“The proposed rule removes unnecessarily harsh restrictions that were put in place as a response to misinformation-based fear created by carefully crafted and heavily promoted anti-ethanol myths, which have been ‘busted’ by more than 10 years of E15 use with retailers reporting no damage claims, and no increase in releases from UST systems,” wrote Ron Lamberty, senior vice president at ACE, in his comments.

The Renewable Fuels Association said the proposed changes will expand E15 use and noted that 95 percent of vehicles on the road today are legally approved by EPA to use E15. As a result, RFA said the label should be modified to better reflect the increasingly small share of vehicles and equipment for which E15 is not approved. The RFA also said it believes the EPA should clarify that its mandatory E15 label preempts the ability of state and local governments to require duplicative and redundant E15 dispenser labels.

In comments to the EPA, RFA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis noted the trade association “believes that with a few modest revisions, the labeling modifications and UST compatibility provisions proposed by EPA will result in expanded availability and use of E15, a cleaner, more affordable fuel blend that improves our nation’s energy efficiency, air quality, energy security, and resiliency to climate change.”

“RFA is supportive of many of the changes proposed by EPA, and we hope President Biden’s administration moves swiftly to finalize the key elements of this rule,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “EPA’s proposal would help to remove two crucial impediments that have prevented E15 from spreading more rapidly in the marketplace.”

Growth Energy also filed comments in support of the proposed rule.  “Growth Energy supports modification of the E15 label requirement to increase clarity and ensure it adequately advises consumers of appropriate uses of the fuel, while not unnecessarily dissuading the vast majority of consumers whose vehicles can refuel with E15…. In addition, Growth Energy strongly supports EPA’s proposal to modify the underground storage tank (UST) compatibility requirements applicable to E15 and other fuel blends,” the group wrote in its comments.

“As our nation faces the challenges of climate change, it’s imperative that EPA act immediately to support greater access to cleaner renewable fuel blends for all Americans,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. E15 and higher ethanol blended fuels will deliver immediate benefits for our environment and are a critical piece of our nation’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.  

“Clearing hurdles to the sale of E15 and growing markets of biofuels would also provide an economic lifeline for rural communities as they continue to rebuild in the wake of COVID-19,” Skor continued. “Between the economic and environmental benefits, fixing E15 labeling and infrastructure is a win-win for America.” 

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Iowa Corn Growers Association filed joint comments in support of the proposed rule. “Iowa leads the nation in both corn and ethanol production and growing the market for E15 is crucial to our state’s economic, agricultural, energy and environmental future,” the groups said. “Regulatory changes have the potential to accelerate the commercial expansion of E15, which is the most immediate, available, and affordable path to carbon reduction in the transportation sector. While the proposed rule is a good start, the bottom line is that it does not go far enough. We want to help elevate it by knocking down unnecessary regulatory barriers that would prevent E15 commercial growth and stifle carbon reduction as a result.  We thank EPA for its consideration of our recommendations, and we stand ready to work with the Agency and the Biden Administration on this and other climate solutions going forward.”

A full copy of the proposed rule is available on the EPA website


CVEC celebrates 25th anniversary

Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co., a 50 MMgy ethanol plant located in Benson, Minnesota, is celebrating a new milestone. April 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the company’s fuel ethanol and industrial alcohol manufacturing.

A statement released by CVEC indicates the company was found in 1996 by a local farmer and electric coop manager looking to add value to area corn while stabilizing electricity rates. Since that time, CVEC has grown to more than 900 member owners.

“In 1992 and ’93, the chances of profit were maybe a nickel per bushel or less and I thought we have to get something to process it and get in the end game…,” said Janet Lundebrek, CVAC board member. “Ethanol is not only fuel. It’s food, it’s oil, dried distillers…those that believed in it, we’ve done very very well and gotten good returns.”

Since its founding, the company has increased its ethanol production capacity to 50 MMgy. CVEC has also reduced energy consumption by 36 percent, and diversified its products to include distillers grains, corn oil and industrial alcohol.

As CVEC celebrates its 25-year anniversary, the company said it continues its mission to generate distributions to its members by engaging in opportunities to increase the value of agriculture production.

“If the station I pull into has E85 available, that’s what goes into by vehicle,” said Tom O’Leary, CVAC board member. “The more E85 we can sell, the more profitable the plant can be, the m ore money they can pay back to their shareholders and more they can try to use to buy more crops and expand and benefit everyone in the community.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol has spoken out to congratulate producer member CVEC on reaching the new milestone. “ACE proudly celebrates with CVEC this month as it marks 25 years of providing a valuable market for Minnesota farmers and returning value to its member owners, all the while producing low carbon fuel and a variety of other products like high-protein feed, corn oil, and industrial alcohol for the nation and the world,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “The leadership and staff at CVEC should be commended for helping lead the industry’s effort to ramp up production of industrial alcohol to serve the growing demand for hand sanitizers and disinfectants over the past year. We’re also grateful to have Jan Lundebrek of CVEC provide industry insight as a member on our board.” 


Making A Splash

Walter Cronin says Green Plains Inc. is setting itself up to play a major role in a global market he expects the U.S. to dominate in the coming years. As chief commercial officer at Green Plains, Cronin possesses an advanced knowledge of animal nutrition, as well as a passion for veg oils that likely spills into conversations outside of feed ingredients.

Drawing on that expertise, Cronin explains his theory of circulating aquaculture coming to the U.S. in force and shares the methods Green Plains is using to get ahead of it and secure a top spot in the feed market that will sustain it. 

“The U.S. is going to ultimately dominate in aquafeeds and in aquaculture because of our incredible efficiencies in grain and oil production,” he says, adding that feed

hoards 70% of the cost in circulating salmon production. “We’re at an extreme competitive advantage just starting there.”

Green Plains is also occupying the pet feed market, while maintaining more traditional livestock markets as well.

Jerry Shurson, animal nutritionist and professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Minnesota, agrees that fish and pet feed hold potential as coproduct markets, especially with technologies that add a significant yeast protein to the feed ingredient.

Whether maintaining current markets or enterprising into new ones, distillers grains have become an important revenue stream for ethanol plants. And the opportunities for a polished product are vast.

New Market: Aquaculture
Green Plains purchased Optimal Fish, a boutique lake and pond management feed company that it plans to scale up, Cronin says. “What we really liked was their science and commitment to quality and innovation. So we’re taking that and scaling that to commercial.”

But the key to an optimal fish feed is fractionating, he says. Green Plains uses Fluid Quip Technologies’ Maximum Stillage Co-Products system to accomplish the separation. Green Plains acquired a majority stake in Fluid Quip Technologies in January of this year. “What’s beneficial with MSC protein technology is we basically take the whole stillage that would normally go into a centrifuge and then into a dryer and come out as DDGS, what we’re able to do is fractionate that whole stillage. We end up with a concentrated protein and yeast protein product.”

Green Plains has named that product MSC Protein. It consists of 75% corn gluten and 25% yeast proteins. The system spits out a product with protein purity between 50% and 52%, and Green Plains has achieved 58% protein purity in its applications. Cronin believes Green Plains will hit 60%.

“Protein purity and the potential for this product is very high,” he says. “Higher protein concentration, higher protein purity are the benefits of isolating yeast proteins in one feed.

“The ability of the industry with the MSC technology to deliver this protein concentration—basically that’s what bridges us into the new markets.”

In addition to almost ideal protein, the fish feed ingredient coming out of Green Plains’ MSC applications is low in oil, which is the element that holds xanthophylls, an ingredient that causes yellowing in white fileted fish. MSC extracts 50% more distillers corn oil in Green Plains’ applications, removing that element while boosting extraction to 1.2 pounds per bushel.

Green Plains’ aqualab completes extensive histologies, analyzing all internal organs of the fish and comparing everything to fish fed other diets. “To date, we’ve gotten a very positive response on MSC Protein and filet coloring side by side with other products and have proven the value in that regard.”
One nutritionist says MSC Protein is an optimal fish feed ingredient, Cronin says.

Water quality is another important feature customers want in fish feed, he adds. “Water quality is a huge component in life and health of fish. They swim around in their own feces. The impact of the feed on the water quality, the impact of the feed on filtration systems being used is a key component.”

Cronin says Green Plains is working on even more improvements in water quality, but declined to release details.

The corn gluten and yeast meal is revolutionary in the fish market, he says, and five of Green Plains’ plants have adopted the MSC technology to produce it. Two more will in the coming months. “Scale is important,” Cronin says. “From the process of meeting with the nutritionists, there’s a scaling hurdle we have to get over. Ironically, the more we produce as an industry, we’ll probably start to drive the price higher because there will be more adoption.”

More brands will be willing to buy it with a reliable supply, he adds. “That’s been missing historically but it’s been changing as we grow, as we, Green Plains and others, adopt the technology.”

New Market: Pet Feed
MSC Protein has also made a splash in the pet feed market, where soybean meal is undesirable as it causes flatulence in dogs. “We have a partner in the pet space who absolutely loves this product,” Cronin says. “He hasn’t given us all the secrets about what makes it a great pet feed.”

Yeast for pet health is extremely important, Cronin points out. The benchmarks in that market are shiny coats, bright eyes, firm feces and clean breath.

“From our relationship with our pet customer, our product is a winner in all those regards and the process of the higher protein purity and yeast benefit seem to be key elements of the product relative to the feed ingredients it’s replacing.”

Beyond an exclusive contract with its current pet feed customer, Green Plains is looking to partner with more pet feed brands, Cronin says.

“For protein today, our primary focus is pet feed and aquaculture because the role of the feed ingredient is so important in both of those species,” Cronin says. “We’re working with partners in the poultry space and broiler space, and we’re working with partners in the swine space as well.”

Post-MSC DDGs still have an important role in beef and dairy cattle, he says. “The biggest complaint is the variation in all the factors: protein, fiber, lipids. It has an extreme range of outcomes. That’s across the industry, that’s across our own internal fleet at Green Plains. And the benefit that we get from the post MSC DDGs is a much lower variation in factors.

“We see the benefit on the protein side in entering into new markets, but we also think the post-MSC DDGs is going to be a phenomenal product as well.”

Markets Maintained
Swine, cattle and poultry of course represent markets already using distillers grains for feed, wet and dry. “The market for DDGs is pretty much all species but because our swine and poultry diets in North America are fed in dry form, as opposed to liquid feeding systems, a higher proportion goes to (other) livestock or poultry than beef or dairy,” Shurson says.

Most wet feed goes to local beef cattle feedlots, he says. “It can be used in beef cattle diets in any stage of growth or production but it’s predominantly used for fattening feedlot cattle because of its high energy value. A lot of people continue to think that distillers grains, wet or dry, is a protein source, but it’s really more of an energy source than a protein source.”

There’s been a total acceptance in the feed industry of this coproduct, Shurson says. “One of the things we learned last year when the pandemic turned the world upside down for everyone and ethanol plants either stopped producing or shut down partially, was that distillers grains, wet or dry, had become a common ingredient for all livestock and poultry species and the short supply was a wakeup call to tell the ethanol industry that this is valued and needed.”

Beyond North America, DDGs from the U.S. are exported to Mexico, Southeast Asia, Korea and other areas, says Reece Cannady, manager of global trade with the U.S. Grains Council. But the USGC recently highlighted a market that gets about 3% of the U.S. DDGs exports: Ireland. Ireland purchased more than 277,000 metric tons in 2020, valued at $64 million.

The USGC conducted a feeding trial with a swine farm in the north of Ireland to test the health benefits of U.S. DDGs over competitor feed grains. Results of the feeding trial showed that the inclusion of DDGS leads to healthier and heaver pigs coupled with a cheaper feed cost. (See Table 1.)
“The findings were so good, we actually had to go back and verify again and ask for a double and triple check,” Cannady says.

The results led to direct work with the swine industry to answer questions related to nutrition and encourage inclusion in rations, Cannady says. A large Irish feed mill, which produces up to 500,000 tons of pig feed annually, decided to change its feed formula, increasing the DDGs inclusion rate from zero to 15%. This formulation change will lead to an additional demand for 75,000 tons of U.S. DDGs, annually valued at $17.2 million, according to the USGC.

“It’s so important to do the feed trials in-country,” Cannady points out. “It doesn’t quite work to use figures from the U.S. You have to use their feedstock and use DDGs within that formula. Then it’s easy to convince people to switch.”

But the USGC has encountered an education gap between customers and the product, Cannady says. More webinars are planned with swine producers in Ireland to continue potential market growth. “At this point, we’re still engaging,” he says.

Problem Solving and Partners
Shurson actively promotes communication between ethanol producers and their markets, to educate both parties. “For these ethanol companies and coproduct producers to really understand and obtain the best value they can for the coproducts they’re producing, they really need to develop a relationship or have a consulting nutritionist or a nutritionist on board that can help guide them through some of these kinds of decisions and applications.

“I find that too many ethanol plants kind of expect everybody to embrace and pay top dollar for whatever they can produce coming out the door every day without spending much time on market development and understanding their customers and the animal species’ needs and how they match up with the products they’re producing.” 

Cronin emphasizes partners, education and expertise, too. “Our commercial process is we love to partner with companies who have the deep understanding of the role of the ingredients. We’re not hanging a shingle out saying ‘For Sale’ on the product. We’re much more interested in partnering in on a per-species basis.”

Partnerships have helped Green Plains optimize its feed ingredients. A partnership with Novozymes helps Green Plains produce even more specialized feed through the use of tailored enzymes, to help solve issues in certain animal diets. “What can we overcome with feed? It’s very problem-solving focused,” Cronin says.

“The key to entering into these markets is you have to fractionate the DDGs. You have to give individual species markets the feed ingredient that they want. And that’s what the MSC technology allows us to do.”

Lowered carbon intensity scores and sustainability are important factors, too.

“These things are all moving so rapidly and the processes and technologies that allow us to do this are moving so rapidly, it’s a very dynamic and exciting time in this industry,” Cronin says.

“We’re really moving as an industry very, very quickly.”   

Author: Lisa Gibson
Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine


Walz highlights biofuels infrastructure budget proposal

On April 9, Gov. Tim Walz and supporters of Minnesota’s biofuels industry urged the passage of the Governor’s Biofuels Infrastructure Grant Program budget proposal in order to strengthen small businesses, support farmers, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 Recovery Budget, the Governor’s biennial budget proposal, includes an investment of $2 million per year to fund the Biofuels Infrastructure Grant Program to increase access to ethanol and biodiesel across the state. These grants would give service station owners across Minnesota funding to install the equipment needed to ramp up use of higher blends of biofuels, such as E15 (gas that is 15 percent ethanol), E30 (30 percent ethanol), and E80 (80 percent ethanol).

“Biofuels are critical to Minnesota, not just for helping us meet our climate goals, but to our agricultural and rural economies and

the state’s economy as a whole. However, many gas stations don’t have the tanks, pumps, and other equipment needed to safely dispense E15 to consumers,” Walz said. “The biofuels infrastructure grants would help retailers make these upgrades, and in doing so, these grants support our farmers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Minnesota.”

Walz highlighted the proposal on April 9 at Holiday Stationstore #3829 in New Hope. Owner Chris Robbins received a state grant enabling him to upgrade his facility to offer E15, E30, and E85 fuels.

“E15 has been a huge success for our location,” said Robbins. “It is cheaper for consumers, it supports a home-grown, renewable resource and our Minnesota economy, it reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and it reduces harmful greenhouse gases.”

Conventional corn-starch ethanol can reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) by as much as 48 percent compared to gasoline; advanced biofuels made from feedstocks such as cellulose can reduce GHGs even more.

Minnesota’s ethanol industry generated $4.4 billion in revenue in 2020 and supports nearly 14,500 jobs – including an estimated 3,600 jobs in agriculture and 3,900 jobs indirectly supported in the corn production supply chain.


Washington Senate passes Clean Fuel Standard bill

The Washington Senate on April 8 voted 27 to 20 in favor of H.B. 1091, a bill that aims to establish a state-wide Clean Fuel Standard. The amended legislation will now be considered by the House, which passed an earlier version of the bill on Feb. 27 by a vote of 52 to 46.

The bill, proposed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, would require the Washington Department of Ecology to adopt rules to implement a CFS by 2023. The program would limit the aggregate, overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emission per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. Eligible biofuels, renewable natural gas (RNG), hydrogen, and agricultural and forest waste are among the fuels that could be used to comply with the program.

According to the Department of Ecology,

transportation currently accounts for approximately 45 percent of the state’s total GHG emissions. The proposed CFS is expected to reduce Washington’s GHG emission by 2.7 million metric tons per year by 2030.

The bill would exclude exported fuel, fuel used by marine vessels, railroad locomotives, aircraft and certain other categories of transportation fuel from the CFP’s GHG emission intensity reduction requirements.